One of Portugal’s emblems is the ‘Galo de Barcelos’ or ‘Rooster of Barcelos’. According to the legend a dead rooster miraculously intervened in the hanging of a man who had been falsely accused. This famous and colorful emblem of Portugal symbolizes the love of life, a love that we share! So it’s no coincidence that Portugal is one of our favorite countries to visit. So, I guess this post should come with a disclaimer for those who haven’t travelled there yet. Authentic Algarve will win you over!
Until recently, Lisbon was the only Portuguese destination we had been to. Fatih & Alegra went there on a father-daughter city break a few years ago. My visit doesn’t really count as it was work-related but still, we loved the country’s vibe and were looking for an opportunity to return. Since Belgian weather usually sucks, these opportunities tend to arise quite frequently. And so, Portugal re-appeared on our radar. Yet this time, we wanted to take a relaxing family-holiday which, for us, translates to a mix of culture, relaxation and exploration.
The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost coast, stretches out from Sagres in the West to the Spanish border in the East. But, as mentioned earlier, we would take it easy and therefore decided to focus on a smaller area. And as often, we would let our choice depend on hotel reward programs and flight deals. Vilamoura, near Faro in the Eastern Algarve, would become our home away from home for the week. During that time, we’ve become hard-core Algarve fans. And with good reason. This amazing area truly has it all:
One of the most important attractions in the Algarve, is the stunning coastline. There’s no better way to enjoy this amazing landscape than by boat. So that’s what we did! And what an experience it was! Even the kids couldn’t get enough of it.
It was April so the ocean was still pretty cold but that didn’t stop Fatih from taking a dip in the crystal-clear water.
The Benagil cave is a popular attraction and we had hoped to explore it from the inside. Unfortunately, the boat we chartered was too high to enter. But we got over it. Mostly because it gives us a reason to return in the future – yeey! 🙂 And by that time the girls might even be big enough to explore this cave by kayak.
If you take the boat a bit further from the shore, you have a chance of spotting both common and bottlenose dolphins. Or you can take a wildlife-watching tour in the company of a marine biologist. Click this link for an overview of all possible tours.
We explored the authentic Algarve in Faro, the seaside regional capital, and inland Loule.
The city’s historic center or ‘Cidade Velha’ is built upon the site of a Roman forum and encircled by ancient city walls. The main entrance is via the arch (Arco da Vila), right next to the tourist information office.
We walked the cobbled streets along picture-perfect whitewashed houses. The bell tower is a favoured nesting spot for local storks but not the only one by far. And so we organized a nest hunt throughout the city. It’s always nice to have this kind of side-occupation for the kids when exploring a city. In our experience, this association serves as a mental hook to help them remember more aspects of a cultural visit.
Faro is really quite compact and so the historic centre is right next to the marina and the modern part of the city. No cobblestones here but rather pretty mosaic tiles adding to the city’s charm.
It’s all very well walkable so don’t take the tourist train. It is cute, we agree, but totally unnecessary. The tour is quite long and, well, quite boring. Especially for this girl. 😉
This city is less touristic and therefore better reflects the local Portuguese lifestyle. Loule is most famous for its covered gypsy market on Saturdays which takes place in the building on this picture.
We strolled around the streets, flirted with the fountains on the Largo de São Francisco and admired the castle, built on an area previously settled by the Romans.
The souvernir shops display beautiful ceramics and cork products. We had no idea about the many uses of cork!
Less touristic also means less obvious dinner options. Thanks to the Loule locals, we found the amazing 11 da Villa. What a gem! To say our tastebuds were spoiled, is an understatement. We have to go back to try Cafe Q though, with its enchanting terrace.
Lovely people & delish food
The Portuguese are super friendly and relaxed. We didn’t expect that they’d all be so proficient in English as they are. They’re very welcoming, kind and fond of kids. Oh, and the locals sure know how to cook!
Abundance of nature in Ria Formosa
The Ria Formosa Natural Reserve is located right behind Faro’s marina. These wetlands encompass an area of about 18 000 hectares and are protected from the ocean by 5 barrier-islands and 2 peninsulas. It is heaven for the nature-lover with dunes, marches, lagoons and a vast bio-diversity. Many bird species can be spotted during the wintering period. Plenty of excursions start at the marina in Faro.
Who can resist the golden beaches in the Algarve?
Authentic Algarve is waiting for you
Well, are you hearing it yet? The irresistible call of authentic Algarve? We bet you do! Breathtaking nature, charming cities, mouth-watering seafood, plenty of excursions and activities and the most luxurious accommodation options await you. Let the Algarve exceed your expectations.
Where to stay in the Eastern Algarve?
You’ll sure be spoiled with choice when it comes to accommodation too. Luxury hotels galore in the Eastern Algarve. Too much for this hotel geek to take a pick so I’ll leave that up to you!
– Beach hotels
- Blue & Green The Lake Spa Resort
- Crowne Plaza Vilamoura
- Dunas Douradas Beach Club
- Epic Sana
- Vila Vita Parc (resort villas)
– Inland golf resorts set in lush gardens
- The new Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
- Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa: This is where we stayed. There is a touristic train service all day long to Falesia beach, the Vilamoura minigolf and the marina.
- Conrad Algarve
– Hotels offering the best of both worlds, a beach & golf combo
– Unique experience on the Rio Formosa
- House boat rental: How about your own floating terrace with a view of the barrier islands and wildlife?
Have you travelled to the Algarve before? If so, we want to know all about the cities you have visited. Or did you make a memorable excursion and want to share your experience? Then start commenting!
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